For Corporal Works of Mercy on the Feast of St. Faustina

Master of Alkmaar, Seven Works of Charity:
Burying the dead. 1504 AD

Yesterday at work, I learned from colleagues that my boss had lost her son to a long, debilitating illness. Her loss had been expected for some time, but no parent is ever comfortable with the prospect of a child predeceasing them.

The word was that our boss would be out for the rest of the week on bereavement, and we figured the funeral for her son would be on Saturday and most of us could attend.

So I said a quick prayer for the soul of the fallen, and for the consolation of the family.

As it turned out, the funeral was today at 3PM, which caught all of us flat-footed.

We had a quick pow-wow, noted the obituary in the paper, our staffing needs for the day, and wondered if the ceremony was too private to intrude upon.

I just knew that at least one of us, and maybe two, should go.

We would have to notify HQ to change our pay status, as the payroll week ended today and was already accounted for. I remember thinking that 3PM, on a Friday, is the Hour of Mercy, the time when Jesus breathed his last on the cross. I noted also that today is First Friday, for those who follow the devotional to the Sacred Heart.

Not sure why, I just knew that I had to get to the funeral. Burning vacation time to do so was of no consequence to me. One of my colleagues agreed and we both set the bureaucratic wheels in motion so that we, and a few others whom we notified in unrelated departments, could be there to pay our respects and give our condolences as representatives of our manager’s staff.

I’m sure this particular act of mercy will become one I’ll find myself being involved in more and more as time goes by. Reading Sirach with my kids, I recalled this verse read recently,

Give your gift to all the living,
and do not withhold your kindness from the dead.

Do not avoid those who weep,
but mourn with those who mourn.

And yet avoid those who mourned, and the dead, was de rigueur for me for the longest time.Finally I realized what the poet said about loving and loss applies if we are to embrace fully our human condition.

And what is that? Well, it’s a lot like how Vin Scully describes the game of baseball after the Dodgers failed to win a Wild Card bid a few days ago,

“That’s the way this game is – you win, you lose, you celebrate, and you suffer.”

To try and live a life devoid of loss is to deny both reality and the hope of gain. You don’t have to be a super-duper Catholic Christian to see the truth in that statement. Even a salty sea captain of some renown “gets” the basic idea,

It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win. —John Paul Jones

And so I left work early today and used some precious vacation time to pay my respects to a man two years my junior whom I never knew.

I got to the cemetery early enough to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him. Prior to doing so, I found these words of Jesus as reported by St. Faustina, whose feast we celebrate today, not coincidentally I’m sure.

Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties, obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moments depends on your prayer.

And what of the dead? Sister Faustina reports the words of the Lord as follows,

Enter into purgatory often, because souls need you there.

It is reported that St. Faustina had a vision of souls in Purgtory,

I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment, I was in a misty place full of fire in which there as a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid.

So you can see why I felt called to be there.  With signs like A) an Hour of Mercy funeral on B)First Friday, which happens to fall on C) St. Faustina’s Feast Day, through whom D) the Divine Mercy Message was given, what I had to do couldn’t have been any clearer.

I may be dense, see, but I’m not as blind as I used to be.


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